This month Walker Clark LLC celebrates Fernando Moreno's ten years of service to the legal profession as a principal of our firm. Fernando is Walker Clark's Regional Managing Principal for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Fernando joined Walker Clark LLC as a principal on 26 May 2004. Since then, his practice has concentrated on strategic planning, the development and implementation of marketing plans, feasibility studies for new products and ventures such as law firm networks and mergers, law firm valuations, law firm profitability and general management coaching. He also has developed a rare expertise in the management of corporate legal functions in privately-held multinational businesses.
His primary focus has been in Latin America and the Caribbean region, but he works with Walker Clark clients in North America and Europe, as well.
When asked recently about what he considered his best accomplishments as a member of the Walker Clark multidisciplinary team, Fernando cited the catalytic role that Walker Clark has played since 2005 in the development of the modern, dynamic legal market in Colombia.
"Ten years ago, very few people in the world gave much thought to the Colombian economy or its legal profession; market competition was centered on self-defeating price-cutting wars; and law firm differentiation was not on anybody's mind. Today, Colombian law firms are increasingly cited as "best practice" examples in innovation in strategy and internal management. I like to think that Walker Clark's extensive work in that market contributed, in a small part, to this very impressive development. It has been very stimulating and gratifying to work with lawyers — not only in Colombia but throughout the world — as they and their firms have grown to be truly world-class."
One of the most notable changes in the practice of law, he notes, has been the increased immediacy of global communications and their impact on client service expectations.
"Five years ago, lawyers' cell phone numbers were confidential, to be shared with only a select few. Even two or three years ago," he observes, "clients would send their lawyers e-mails and would be happy with a response within 24 hours. Today, the client uses instant-messaging, such as What's App, and expects a response within 15 minutes."
"As in so many other areas, assumptions that might have been valid three years ago might not be reliable today."
Looking ahead to the next ten years, Fernando foresees an acceleration of the breakdown of national economic and professional barriers throughout the region.
"U.S. and European firms are creating a significant presence in the legal markets of the region — not just in Brazil and Mexico, but also in emerging legal markets such as Colombia, Peru, and Central America. We are seeing a continuing increase in the number of foreign lawyers — especially from Spain and the United States, but also from Argentina — in practice throughout the region."
"The trend is flowing in both directions," he adds. "Ten years ago when my colleagues and I would accompany our law firm clients from Latin America to introductory meetings with law firms in places like New York, London, Washington, and Los Angeles, we would usually conduct the meetings in English with U.S. or British partners. Today it is just as common that we will meet in New York with foreign-qualified partners of the firms and a large part of the conversation will be in Spanish or Portuguese."
"Globalization of legal services has truly taken hold in Latin America," he concludes, "and this presents serious challenges and great opportunities for law firms there that are willing to grow, invest, and innovate."